• Motorburn
      Because cars are gadgets
    • Gearburn
      Incisive reviews for the gadget obsessed
    • Ventureburn
      Startup news for emerging markets
    • Jobsburn
      Digital industry jobs for the anti 9 to 5!

Is it time to bury Flash for good?

Flash is something which has wowed clients for some years now. It looks impressive on your developer’s desktop, and fantastic in client pitches. New clients are impressed with some agencies’ design capabilities because Flash sites look attractive. That is pretty much where pure 100% Flash websites belong, on power points, in pitches but not in real web designs.

Look, of course Flash does have its uses. Some online gaming is driven with Flash, along campaign driven micro sites which have above the line viral concepts. Flash does work, but only in targeted strategies.

Apple does not support Flash, most mobile phone browsers don’t, and most desktop browsers require plugins to be able to view Flash sites. Google spiders do not read it at all. In fact, pure Flash sites are terrible for SEO because they are not user friendly and take forever to load. Flash sites are not aimed at delivering information but for the “wow” factor they generate. That’s what YouTube is for; if you love video Flash advertising, create a YouTube channel for your client.

Ok, let me take a deep breath — Flash has its pros and cons, so please don’t think I hate it, because I don’t. I just feel that its purpose in web design has been used incorrectly by some. No brand that is serious about its online presence can have a purely Flash-based website.

Perhaps this seems like a controversial statement. Is the “wow” factor more important than being found on search engines (SEO) and being compatible with devices and browsers? No. There is no point in having a “wow” website which no one can find or use.

You can rank Flash sites through cloaking, but it’s only a matter of time before Google slams down on this. There are cases proving that this has already happened, but then there was talk that Google was going to support Flash. I have seen some indication but not to the degree that Google has stated.

Many design houses are using a combination of Flash (usually for banners etc) with crawlable HTML5/CSS3. Is there any point, however, in this strategy if Flash is still not compatible with all that many devices?

I think a combination works. That’s what Flash was intended for in web design — to play a part in design, not to take it over. Crawlable HTML5/CSS3, along with numerous other platforms have the same “wow” factor as Flash.

These platforms are compatible with most devices and are fantastic for Google ranking, which means SEO is a winner. Flash is also a closed source, so development is expensive. I know that Adobe has plans, Microsoft has Silverlight, and Google labs recently launched a Flash-to-HTML5- converter called swiffy. As time progresses, however, it seems that Flash is being left alone in the distant horizon, or being used inappropriately.

Online marketers need to be honest with their clients. Online eCommerce websites would never gain the revenues that they do if they had pure Flash websites. It’s very common, however, to see huge brands with impressive flashy websites which have high bounce rates, and poor compatibility, thus meaning no one is actually “wowed”.

Is online development not about creating exposure or revenue for the client? Sure, let’s be sexy about our online brand presence, but let’s never forsake exposure or sales purely to be “flashy” (excuse the pun), when the primary goal (for most brands at any rate) is to put money in the bank, whether through exposure or sales.

Image Courtesy of: teach-ict.com

  • I believe Google spiders do read flash text content

  • Until someone comes up with a consistent framework of HTML 5, CSS 3, and JS tools that can consistently produce working sites on http:/www.theFWA.com… then the desire to kill Flash comes out of web purist groupthink. With each browser able to do a few things well, today’s HTML5/CSS/JS landscape is just today’s plugin issues. Let’s not confuse bad business models, poor client/agency/freelancer misjudgment, and horrendous UX principals of designing/architecting an interface with throwing out flash as a tool.

  • Andrew Morgs

    Look, I despise Flash as much as the next guy but this
    article is full of factual inaccuracies. If it’s an opinion piece, by all means, make things up and call them
    opinion but don’t try and present them as some form of truth.


    “most mobile phone browsers don’t support Flash”

    If by most mobile phones, you mean “pretty much only the
    iPhone” then yes, what you have said is correct. However about a minute of research
    would have revealed that over 132 million activated smartphones already support
    flash. What about all the Sony Erricson models (W200, W300, W550, W600, W810,
    W900, W610, W660, W710, W580, W830, W850, W880, K550im, K610im etc… and that’s
    just ONE BRAND) that all support in-browser Flash.


    To say “most mobile phones” is also disingenuous as if you
    look at the amount of mobile phones that actually connect to the internet, the
    percentage of Flash support is huge.


    “most desktop browsers require plugins to be able to view
    Flash sites”

    This is true of virtually any framework! This is like saying
    “most cars require petrol to drive”. What about .NET? Silverlight? Java? Are
    these all obsolete as well because they require browser plugins?


    “Google spiders do not read it at all”

    You could always try and Google “can google spiders read flash”
    to see that this statement is incorrect.


    “pure Flash sites are terrible for SEO”

    This may have been true in 2003 but these days Flash is
    completely optimised for SEO.


    The fact that you’ve managed to get me, the world’s biggest
    hater of Flash, to argue IN FAVOUR of Flash, is incredible. These sorts of
    pseudo-factual articles are rife in South Africa and will keep us in the dark ages
    as long as people keep presenting them as fact. I hate Flash. I hope it dies.
    But at least take 10 minutes to research your topic.

  • This guy is a weak writer. And terribly short on facts.

  • Shaune

    Hey Andrew Morgs, in 12 years we have ranked some of the most difficult flash
    sites. But its not ideal, and its only done through cloaking, which
    really is black hat. Thats what my statement is about. Flash is terrible
    for SEO, end of story-and its damn difficult to get right, and note my
    article only applies to 100% flash sites. I am talking from 12 years
    experience as an SEO company. Loving the passion and fury, but I assure you that many SEO teams are not fond of PURE 100% flash sites…til next week :)

  • Shaune

    Hey Andrew Morgs, in 12 years we have ranked some of the most difficult flash
    sites. But its not ideal, and its only done through cloaking, which
    really is black hat. Thats what my statement is about. Flash is terrible
    for SEO, end of story-and its damn difficult to get right, and note my
    article only applies to 100% flash sites. Also I never said DONT USE flash, I said use it responsibly. I am talking from 12 years experience
    as an SEO company. Loving the passion and fury, but I assure you that
    many SEO teams are not fond of PURE 100% flash sites, look I know that this article would rattle the cage…til next week and thanks for your comment :)

  • When last did you optimize a flash site for SEO? Try it and you will quickly learn that to have an SEO friendly flash site you need an alternative version of the site – its basically making 2 websites – one for users and one for browsers – this is cloaking – please show me a flash site that is fully crawlable by google and i will applaud :)

    I normally don’t jump up and down when I see somebody who is “wrong” (http://xkcd.com/386/) on the internet but this is pure hippocracy, with your all encompassing statements (suddenly being an expert after a quick Google search) you are not practicing what you preach. Ask any SEO about flash and they will roll their eyes – yes it is possible to optimise flash sites but its really tricky and you end up with an abominaiton that would have been far better on a better platform – I think the article is intentionally being a little bit facetious to inspire debate ;) – looks like you rose to it…

  • Ian

    I work in the SEO industry and I have many of my own projects and I will never use flash for any of my sites. If anyone can please show me a completely flash based site with mobile capabilities that ranks in the top 5 for highly competitive phrases (insurance, accommodation, travel etc) then I might be convinced.

    Maybe these Flash guys should read the SEO Twitter streams to get a better understanding on what it takes to actually rank a website with Google…

  • Vishwaka

    Of the top of my head: No one cares about Erricson! Andriod and iMac is where the world is heading.

    A good SEO strategist and Web developer will agree that a full flash site is horrible to work with as well as not practicle. It costs a lot more and takes ages to load and cache…HTML5 (Living Web) is the way forward, and in 2-3 years it will be standard maybe even sooner.

    HTML 5 will surely make Flash sink deep into the depths of the internet ocean.

    HTML5 / CSS3 / AJAX has already started prooving itself and some agencies are using this as there standard,being a good animator will not make you a good debeloper.

  • Oh geez I am a flash coder and this article is shocking. One thing I love is no-one wants the 2.9mb flash plugin that can outdo html 5 hands down on steroids, but everyone wants the 70mb html 5 compatible web browser that can’t even adhere to a standard! And Steve Jobs is an idiot (flash is bad and badly coded but osx now has viruses?) the share price is dropping and go google and google plus and you will live! Oh yeah and rid us of html 5 hipsters because of articles like this! 

  • @rnbfish maybe we should say SEO is dead or at least is going that way. :)

  • Vishwaka

    And the flash plugin downloads 2.9mb every day, plus the site i have to view designed in flash is most of the time over 10mb and some higher end ones go up to 50mb. And have you heard of open source browsers(sarcasm)? They are setting the standards for all browsers, even IE is uping their game after years of debate that they know everything. And if you read the post and did a 5min search you would have read that google is slowly getting rid of flash because you have to use cloaking to SEO the site.

    Im a web dev and not a big fan of SEO but its real and it is out there…we have to deal with it. Google wont die soon as well as their competition will not stop till they are top. For them to grow they need SEO and for us to design and sell sites we need SEO.

  • Brendan Goosen

    @f89a659f41bff009078769bf212aae52:disqus I have done some html 5, android development I am quite aware of movements with open source browsers like webkit etc. I love google to death and I actually had hope for html 5. I just find it odd that you and others make unsubstantiated claims against the use of flash. 2.9 mb every day is simply not true. It may do an update and so does google chrome, without telling you. Yet you are fine to let your mac or pc do a 1 gb update? Your sarcasm about open source browsers means what? That they are standards based? Really? Is html 5 a standard? If so why do you need triple the amount of code to serve a video with fall backs for quicktime flv ogg or mp4? Actionscript 3 is more of a standard than html 5, the flex sdk is opensource. Is flash the best for everything. Definitely not. Is java better for some things. Hell yeah, is html 5 not better for things like forms. I would say so. Then lets get on to SEO, seo is determined by search engines. It used to be determined by clever developers and search engines. Do you get the picture? Google doesn’t want you to determine how your site ranks it wants users to determine that. Again maybe SEO is dead? Or is that as naive as saying flash should be dead. Adios :)

  • This is the classic HTML guy who does not know how to use Flash and cries wolf.

    Look at his personal website.. http://synergizeonline.net/

    If you’re going to take advice on web development from this guy, then you deserve the bad information.

  • As a Flash developer myself, I can honestly say that HTML5 is going to shape the Flash development landscape going forward – but not kill it as most people think (or hope). Flash should be a special tool kept for high-impact campaigns, immersive experiences and user interaction processes where the experience is expedited or made easier for the user. Flash has a history of being grossly misused in the past which doesn’t help our case at all.
    Although the HTML5 ‘flash-killer’ buzz is getting rather annoying, it will hopefully steer most people clear of using Flash in the wrong situations where another solution would suffice. When you use Flash in a targeted campaign that is tied into an above-the-line or viral/social marketing strategy driving traffic to your site for a limited life-cycle, there is no need for stringent SEO practice.I would agree that this article wasn’t researched properly – Andrew Morgs pointed that out quite well. This HTML5/Flash debacle is making it quite clear how little the industry actually knows about Flash, what it can do and how best to implement it. The HTML5 standard still has much to overcome, just like Flash did, in terms of browser support and penetration. It’s not the saviour of the web just yet.Every major technology on the web has a place and we need to start educating the masses to recognise where each should be used. I’ll gladly hand off work to HTML developers where HTML is best-suited for the job and where Flash would not be properly utilised.

    But in the not too distant future, when your neighbour’s 13 year old son starts doing websites for businesses on his street using the wonderful capabilities of HTML5/JS to create the most horrid, unprofessional, unoptimized animations and interactions – we’ll be in the same situation as we are with Flash to-date. In the case of both Flash and HTML, the technologies are sound, but their implementation lies in the hands of those who use them.

  • Yes but it is limited.

  • There is nothing irritating than a site that uses flash all over so HTML5 is the answer to web design shortcomings.

More in Usability

Work the look: 5 tips for online clothing retailers

Read More »